I’d really like to know how some science-related myths enter the public consciousness, sort of like urban legends. There is a lot that concerns physics and religion that, whenever I run across them, I have to wonder how people come up with this stuff. And when I was browsing through an interview recently, I ran across two of my favorites within a couple of sentences of each other.
One has to do with Einstein. Just about everyone knows of him as an iconic science-genius with frizzy hair — rarely anything about his work in physics. In fact, one of the more widespread items of “common knowledge” about Einstein seems to be that he favored religion, believed in a conventional God and all that. It’s not exactly true — Einstein indulged in some handwaving quasi-Platonist God-talk, but also rejected any personal God. But what’s even more interesting is how Einstein gets turned into an authority on religion, when his thoughts on the matter are pretty second-rate, honestly. The urban legend of a devout Einstein is out there, regardless of its various inaccuracies, and it’ll never go away.